Over-the-top shopping

Fans of unusual toys, funky clothes and indie music can find them in three new or soon-to-open spots

September 28, 2006|By Sam Sessa | Sam Sessa,Sun Reporter

In the past couple months, some local shop owners have either moved across town or opened new stores altogether. Two are in Hampden, and another is right next to the Ottobar on Howard Street.

Atomic Pop

At first, Benn Ray and Rachel Whang were looking to expand. The two co-owners of Atomic Books in Hampden wanted to open satellite bookshops in other parts of the city, but were turned off when they found out some big chain bookstores are coming in soon. So they opened a toy store called Atomic Pop instead.

Pop premiered at Hampden Fest a couple weeks ago, and went over well, Ray said. The sparsely furnished store features DIY crafts such as yarn and cross-stitch patterns, handcrafted dolls and figures, plastic miniature food models from Japan, postcards, dolls made of string and more. Items range in price from a couple bucks to as much as $500 for limited editions.

There's also some space in the rear of the building that they might turn into an art gallery or use for book signings, Ray said. Right now, he's focusing on the toys.

"Just from my own perspective, every day opening boxes of toys ... it's like freaking Christmas," Ray said. "The 12-year-old in me is thrilled."

Atomic Pop is at 3620 Falls Road. Hours are 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays. Call 410-366-1004 or go to atomicbooks.com.

9th Life

This summer, 9th Life owner Ida Pogue packed up her inventory and headed for Hampden.

Now, Pogue's collection of funky, vintage and risque clothes, candles, jewelry, neckties and such resides in her new space above Millbrook Antiques on the Avenue.

During the nine years the store was in Fells Point, the neighborhood changed significantly. Crabby Dick's used to be on the same block but closed last year. That left 9th Life and Killer Trash, another boutique, pretty much alone on a mostly abandoned stretch of Broadway.

"It was kind of weird leaving there, but it was time," Pogue said.

The new space opened Aug. 25 and is about the same size as the old one. It consists of three rooms, each painted a different color. There's green, blue and pink - the latter a favorite of Pogue.

"I always wanted a pink room," she said.

Pogue, a self-proclaimed treasure hunter, scours flea markets and antiques stores looking for merchandise to add to her inventory. And now, she has an ideal space to sell it, she said.

"I've always loved Hampden," Pogue said. "Hampden feels more like home. We're perfect here."

9th Life is at 859 W. 36th St. on the second floor. Hours are noon-7 p.m. Thursdays-Mondays. Call 410-534-9999 or go to 9th-life.com.

Reptilian Records

The owner of Reptilian Records, a former Fells Point independent music mainstay, also decided to vacate the neighborhood and head north. According to owner Chris Xavier, it will re-open in a building next to the Ottobar in mid- to late-October.

The store opened Thanksgiving weekend in 1989 at 403 S. Broadway. Only 2 percent of the albums sold there were from major labels, Xavier said. All the rest were indie, DIY and local groups ranging from punk rock to hardcore to noise to emo. The few exceptions were bands such as the Clash, the Stooges and the Sex Pistols. The store launched its own record label in 1993, published four books over the years and is about to release its first DVD - an Ottobar performance by the Upper Crust.

Much like 9th Life, Reptilian's move was partly prompted by the changing face of Fells Point, Xavier said. He hopes the new space will put him closer to his clientele.

"We've been needing to do it for some time," Xavier said.

A hard rain fell last July and turned the back half of the Fells Point store into a mini-swamp - the catalyst for the move, Xavier said.

"At that point I was like, `OK, clearance sale, we're outta here,'" he said. "And, of course, as soon as I moved everything into storage it's been clear skies."

Reptilian Records will also release its 100th album, a retrospective sampler, on its birthday this November - if the move stays on schedule, Xavier said.

"We'll be open by then if I have to set up on the sidewalk," he said.

Reptilian Records plans to open in mid- to late October at 2545 N. Howard St. Tentative hours will be noon-10 p.m. Mondays-Fridays and noon-11 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Call 410-327-6853 or go to reptilianrecords.com.


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